Oklahoma country music superstar Toby Keith had a good reason for accepting Forbes’ invitation to appear on the recent cover of its annual Celebrity 100 special issue.
“My publicist, this is one of the things she demanded. She was like, ‘They want to put you on the cover of Forbes. They’re requiring a photo shoot and interviews and follow you around for a couple of days out on the road.’ And I was like ‘Man …,’ Keith told me in a phone interview from the road in Wisconsin prior to his July 6 Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert.
“First of all, it’s like pulling teeth to get me to do photo shoots. And I don’t mind doing interviews if they’re by phone, but I hate to go sit down and have to meet somebody somewhere, you know what I mean. I’m getting lazy is what’s happening. No, there’s just so many people that want 20 or 30 minutes of your time that if I’m on the road like I am today, I ain’t got nothing to do but lay around on the bus all day and wait on the show. But if I’m at home, I’m running around and I’ve got stuff to do … so I try to cut back on stuff. And she was like, ‘You have to do the Forbes deal.’”
Keith, who was born in Clinton and grew up in Moore, said the Forbes reporter followed him for two or three days on his private plane and at shows, including the Houston Rodeo, and came to Keith’s Norman home and his Belmar Golf Club. Plus, he and the Forbes staffer, Zack O’Malley Greenburg, talked on the phone quite a bit.
As previously reported, the extensive article, titled “Toby Keith, Cowboy Capitalist: Country’s $500 Million Man,” details the Norman resident’s many business ventures, including his Wild Shot mezcal line, his longtime partnership with Ford Trucks, growing I Love This Bar and Grill restaurant chain and his partial ownership of the Big Machine Records label. In addition, the Moore-bred megastar serves as principal of his Show Dog Universal label and wrote or co-wrote most of his hits.
Keith and his $65 million in the past year ranked No. 43 on the actual “Celebrity 100.”
“I was like, man, I’m uncomfortable even talking about success and money, you know what I mean. I’m just a boy from Oklahoma that still drives a pickup truck,” said Keith, who at that point hadn’t read even read the article and asked this reporter if it was any good.
“I got some hot rod cars in my barn and in garage ’cause I can – cars I grew up loving – but I’m a pickup guy.”
He added with a laugh, “I play golf with my shirttail out. I own a golf course because it’s very, very close to my house, and I don’t want to drive 45 minutes to the north side of Oklahoma City to play golf every day. I have race horses ’cause I love horses and it’s my hobby. But all the material things I have are stuff that fits my life and that I need (and) I want to do. And I’m just not comfortable with people doing that (delving into his financial success), but my publicist insisted. She said ‘You’ve earned it and it’s huge respect.’”
After “a bunch of yakking,” Keith, 52, said he agreed to do the story, including a photo shoot at his house. He wore a dapper black button-down shirt and dark gray suit jacket along with a dark cowboy hat for the Forbes cover.
“I still had jeans on,” he said. “I put the jacket on, but that’s as far as I would go.”
The article briefly mentions a couple of his charitable projects, including his under-construction OK Kids Korral lodge for Oklahoma children seeking cancer treatment at OU Health Sciences Center and the July 6 Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert at the OU stadium. The show, which also featureed Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Ronnie Dunn, Sammy Hagar and more, raised funds for The United Way Of Central Oklahoma May Tornado Relief Fund.
Promoter Howard Pollack told me Wednesday that accountants were still working to calculate the final fundraising total but that the star-studded show raised millions of dollars for the United Way’s tornado relief efforts. In addition, Pollack said that the sold-out show brought in about 62,000 fans.
Keith’s publicist, Elaine Shock, said at the July 6 event that the show set a record for the largest paid audience for a concert in the history of OU’s stadium, exceeding attendance for previous monster musical draws Rolling Stones and U2. The concert is believed to be one of the biggest in state history.